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Fear of Shabaab attacks keeps Lamu locals indoors

Sunday July 21 2019

KDF soldiers patrolling Kotile village

KDF soldiers patrolling Kotile village on the border of Lamu and Garissa counties and towards Somalia. Residents of Ras Kamboni and Ishakani villages on the border of Lamu and Somalia were on July 20, 2019 directed to remain indoors for hours over security concerns. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

KALUME KAZUNGU
By KALUME KAZUNGU
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Residents in Ishakani and Ras Kamboni on the border of Lamu and Somalia were on Saturday forced to remain indoors for hours as security agencies pursued suspected Al-Shabaab militants said to be planning attacks in the area.

Locals who spoke to the Nation said security officers instructed them to limit their movements in the area to pave way for the security personnel to conduct massive crackdown on suspected Al-Shabaab militants who have been launching attacks and attempts in the areas in recent days.

LINDA BONI ZONE

Ishakani and Ras Kamboni villages are within the ongoing multi-agency security Operation Linda Boni zone.

The operation was launched in September 2015 and sought to flush out Al-Shabaab militants believed to be hiding inside the dense Boni Forest.

Mr Ahmed Islam, a resident in Ishakani, said they would, from time to time, hear loud gunshots and explosions coming from the Ras Kamboni direction, suggesting a possible attack.

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REMAIN INDOORS

“Security officers from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) have been moving round our villages asking us to remain inside our houses since security is not good. They told us we should not even use the Ishakani-Ras Kamboni route at the moment to pave way for them to fight terrorists. We’ve also been hearing loud bursts and explosions from a distance towards Ras Kamboni,” said Mr Islam.

Another resident, Mohamed Omar, said they had heard reports of a terror attack that had taken place between Ishakani and Ras Kamboni on Saturday.

TERROR ATTACK

“We’re informed that there was a terror attack that occurred between Ishakani and Ras Kamboni road today and that’s why there is the sudden directive that we should remain indoors. Security officers are pursuing the perpetrators of the attack. I am told it’s an IED attack by suspected Al-Shabaab militants,” said Mr Omar.

A security source who talked to the Nation on condition of anonymity said there was indeed a terror attack that had happened in the area but refused to give details.

“This is an operation area. Yes, there was an attack today morning but we’ve managed to contain the situation,” said the officer by phone before ending the call.

PATROLS

Residents also observed an increase in the number of security personnel and vehicles that were patrolling the area on Saturday and the early hours of Sunday.

But another security official dismissed the attack claims, saying that the gunshots that residents heard were from a routine drill that was being conducted by security agencies in the various camps within the operation area.

“There’s nothing like an attack here. Locals shouldn’t misunderstand security drills for an attack. This is an operation area and gunshots and all manner of explosions are inevitable. There is no cause for alarm,” said the officer who refused to be named.

EXPLOSIVE

A week ago, three Al-Shabaab militants were killed while two police officers from the Rapid Border Patrol Unit (RBPU) were critically injured during an explosive attack along the Kiunga-Ishakani-Ras Kamboni road.

The device is suspected to have been planted on the road by Al-Shabaab militants.

Efforts to seek a comment from Linda Boni Security officials concerning the Saturday incident were, however, futile as they were unreachable by phone.